"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. The Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are justice: a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." (Deuteronomy 32:3-4)
What Is The Doctrine of Christ?
We hear the phrase "The Doctrine of Christ" being thrown around various Christian and Mormon circles these days. The various definitions attributed to this phrase are a varied as the groups who tout it. We see some of the most direct quotes using the phrase "The Doctrine of Christ" in both 2nd and 3rd Nephi. We see this phrase first quoted by the Prophet Nephi the son of Lehi:
"Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying. For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding." (2 Nephi 31:2-3)
The Hebrew word for Doctrine is the word lekakh meaning teaching, insights, or instructions. For an Israelite to say the "Doctrine of Christ" means the teaching, insights, and instructions of/from Christ (Messiah). So in the Israelite mind the Doctrine of Christ would be better understood as the teachings and instructions from Christ (not only teaching or instruction about him, but teachings and instructions from him).
Nephi then goes on to state:
"For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding." (2 Nephi 31:3)
The word "plain" comes from the Hebrew word Nakoakh which means straight or uprightness. In its mechanical sense the concept of straight refers to the surface of the land or path which one walks. So while it can be used in phrases attempting to convey that something is straightforward or self evident its deeper meaning refers to a path which one walks.
Here Nephi is connecting the phrase, "The Doctrine of Christ" not only to something that is straight or upright, but to a path. We see Nephi's words play out the idea of a path later in his narrative when he says, "And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?" (2 Nephi 31:19)
In doing so, Nephi is communicating something that would be very common among Torah observant Israelites-that the following of God's teachings is a path, pathway, or as is sometimes referred to "The Way". It also had another meaning in that the idea of the path or way (Halakhah-a path or walk in life that someone travels) was to follow the teachings or instructions given by your teacher/rabbi-in this case the teachings or instructions of The Messiah.
"And now, if the Lamb of God, he being pure and set apart, should have need to be immersed by water, to fulfil all righteousness (righteousness = Torah= God's Instructions), O then, how much more need have we, being impure and not set apart, to be immersed, yea, even by water!
And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness (God's Torah=His instructions) in being immersed by water?
Know ye not that he was pure and set apart? But notwithstanding he being pure and set apart, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments." (2 Nephi 31:5-7)
Here Nephi is explaining that Christ is immersing himself as an act of humility. In doing so he is witnessing that he would be obedient to his Father in keeping his commandments. We see this same action among many of the various sects of Judaism to this day. When a person who becomes a son/disciple of a specific rabbi or teacher undergoes a ritual immersion, the immersion as a sign that the old person/life was dead and the person would be reborn to a new life/path with a new Father/teacher. Just as a baby is initiated into life through water, so too is the disciple born into a new family, life, or with his covenant father.
Nephi then goes on:
"Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove." (2 Nephi 31:8)
When many Christians and Mormons hear this phrase they rightly connect the pathway or walk of following the Messiah/Christ with receiving the Holy Ghost (Ruach Elohiym). The phrase, "in the form of a dove" evokes the imagery of Christ being baptized by John in the Jordan after which the record of Matthew states that the Holy Ghost descended upon him in "like a dove". (Matthew 3:16)
When read outside of it's Israelite roots the phrase, "like a dove" is often believed to be describing a scene where the Holy Ghost gently descended on Christ like a dove descends in flight. Unfortunately while the description is well meaning, it does not capture the true meaning of the phrase, "form of a dove".
In Hebrew the word for dove is the word yonah (english Jonah). The name Jonah/Yonah should draw our minds to the prophet Jonah and his story. But there is an even older teaching connected to the word Yonah or Dove and is found in the epic of Noah sending forth the dove:
"At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth." (Genesis 8:6-11)
In the mind of the Israelite the image or form of a dove was a symbol for the Shekhinah-the Glory of God-or The Divine Feminine. In other words, just as Christ was born of water he was also then born of the Shekhinah, The Divine Feminine, or the Divine Mother. Thus the idea of being born of water and the spirit. The words "holy ghost" fail to fully describe the Divine Feminine or Shekhinah. It is an awakening to a divine consciousness, the mind of God, an indwelling of the life giving essence of the upper worlds. Those who awaken to this level of spirit or consciousness, were then known as the Children of YHVH (God).
Nephi then expounds:
"And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the agate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?" (2 Nephi 31:9-10)
So like a disciple to their Master or like a child to their Father, the doctrine of Christ commences with being reborn in a covenant path or walk. The covenant path consists in keeping (upholding or guarding) the commandments of The Father. It is the disciplined path wherein we conform to the image of Christ.
Baptism or Immersion In The Name
"And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son. And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost (Shekhinah), like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
When a person in our western culture thinks of baptism in the name of my Beloved Son they often think of someone pronouncing the words, "In the Name of Jesus Christ". In Israelite thought a name is a condition of being. The usage of the words "Beloved Son" representing not only Jesus Christ himself but the condition or state of the Messiah at the time of his immersion. So then the next question would be what is that condition?
In answer to this question, Nephi responds:
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.' (2 Nephi 31:13)
If we were to translate these Israelite expressions into modern English it could be rendered:
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with your heart filled with desire (kavanah), acting no hypocrisy (no double mindedness) and no deception before God, but with real intent, turning from a walk of rebellion, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the same condition of Christ, by immersion in water—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost (Shekhinah-The divine Consciousness)- yes, then comes the immersion (birth of your spirit or consciousness) through purification and the birth through the Shekhinah and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels (the true gift of tongues), and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.' (2 Nephi 31:13)
Nephi then goes on:
"And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.' (2 Nephi 31:15-16)
The words "endure to the end" are often misunderstood by our western culture. In our American minds it comes across a "grin and bear it", "suffer man suffer", or "he who dies in the most pain wins". In an Israelite mind set to "endure to the end" means to walk forward in the path/way until you reach the destination. This Israelite thought is expressed in Nephi's declaration, "And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall walk forward in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved." (2 Nephi 31:16)
Walking forward in the example of The Son is walking forward on a path of rebirth and re-formation/re-creation. It is the path of leaving Egypt or The World and walking in the wilderness until we reach the Holy Mountain. It is the caterpillar in the cocoon in its' transformation process into a butterfly. It is also the basis for Nicodemus' question, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" to which the Messiah answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (Jn 3:4-5)
In understanding these distinctly Israelite concepts, we will understand our ascent from this world up the Ladder of Heaven into the presence of God. We have entered in by the gate wherein we become the fold of the shepherd. Then we come to that strait and narrow path exemplified in Israelite thought as the path of the set apart ones- a disciplined life of faith (trusting loyalty to God), hope (expecting the things of God based on his promises), and tzedekah (charity-righteous acts-the path of mercy).
"Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.' And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word (teaching) of Christ with determined trust and loyalty in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word (teachings/doctrine) of Christ, and walk forward the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.(2 Nephi 31:17-19)
By following the covenant path laid out by Nephi, we see that the "Doctrine of Christ" is not just a doctrine about him, but his teachings and instructions in ascending the Ladder of Heaven. His words consists of those instructions that teach us not only about the path, but how we are to walk the path. It commences with a mighty change of heart or in our modern vernacular-it commences with a conscious desire and choice to bond with God and walk in the path he outlines according to his instructions.
"And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way (path); and there is none other way(path) nor name (condition of being) given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine (teaching) of Christ, and the only and true doctrine (teaching) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen."
Copyright 4-24-2-21- Rob Kay
To be continued:
Part 2- 3 Nephi and The Doctrine of Christ